Sharon Van Etten was famously told by an old boyfriend that she wasn’t a good enough singer to succeed. That guy isn’t around anymore, and Sharon Van Etten is a singing and songwriting tour-de-force. Her breathy and darkly operatic voice melts around your eardrums, and her wilful self-consciousness and well-placed humour add levity to the often-dark songs that span her dense and rewarding catalogue.
Etten's music is characterized by the juxtaposition of muscular, rock-inflected musicianship underpinning her harmony-rich vocals and folk-inflected lyrics. NPR described her songs as “heartfelt without being overly earnest; her poetry is plainspoken but not overt, and her elegant voice is wrapped in enough rasp and sorrow to keep from sounding too pure or confident." Recently Van Etten has appeared as the character Rachel in the TV series The OA and in a series-defining moment, she sang her early opus ‘I Wish I Knew’ a capella to a room of captive characters and to us, a captive audience.
After having her first child in 2017, Van Etten recorded Remind Me Tomorrow, her first album in five years. It’s a stirring and nostalgic series of musings on new life, ageing and reckoning with the damage of the past. These days she is stepping out from behind the guitar mic in hand, with piles of synths and guitars behind her. In a word, Sharon Van Etten is what a real rock star looks like in 2019.
Biography by Liam Prost